Once upon an exceedingly cold Christmas Eve, Ebeneezer Wenger sat in his counting house poring over his ledgers. Skeletal, he sat, enveloped in his voluminous black jacket, squinting myopically at the jumble of figures that danced hypnotically betwixt and between the columns, entranced by the ballet of profit and loss. Occasionally the intricate sums would refuse to balance and he would rise exasperated from his humble stool and stand with arms spread wide apart berating the 4th official who would pointedly ignore him or on occasion nod and point vaguely towards the pitch, an act which did nothing to lessen Wenger’s worsening humour, and served only to force him to sit back down in a belligerent huff.
In the cavernous fireplace a solitary lump of coal spat and hissed, forlornly throwing its meagre warmth into the room. Ebeneezer blew on his hands and wiped away a bead of moisture from the end of his prodigious frozen nose. The office would have been slightly the warmer if Wenger hadn’t insisted on keeping the door open to keep a beady eye on his young clerk, Walcott, who would intermittently rise from his desk, to vigourously stamp his feet and flap his arms in a vain attempt to keep warm. An act that would prompt Ebeneezer to give out a derisory snort. His perverse pleasure was however short-lived when the outer doors were flung open and his assistant, the bold Stephen, strode in with a confident and happy gait.
“Season’s greetings, “he declared “and a very Merry Christmas to you all”
“Bah” muttered Wenger “humbug!”
“Oh come now Sir,” said Stephen “Surely you cannot begrudge us even this harmless frivolity in these harsh times?”
“I would rather, Sir” declared Wenger sternly, “that you focussed your spirits on the efficacy’s of zonal marking, or persuading young Walcott to sign da ting, endeavours which I might remind you that I pay you for, rather than this feeble attempt at seasonal bonhomie.”
On hearing his name mentioned, Walcott seemed to shrink himself into his desk as if willing it to swallow him up. Stephen however was apoplectic.
“Might I respectfully remind you Sir” he shouted, “that it was not me that signed Djourou or Squillacchi, I can only work with the tools that I’m provided”
“And might I remind you Sir, that when people speak of the legendary back four, they invariably speak of Anthony Adams and Martin Keown, you Sir, are an afterthought!”
At this, the bold Stephen spun on his heels and stormed from the office, indignant. Wenger permitted himself a sly chuckle, and with added fervour returned to his books. His happy concentration was short lived as there came a feeble tapping at his open door. Exasperated, Wenger looked up to see a little orphan boy from the parish that he knew quite well.
At this juncture it is worth while describing this poor urchin for he truly represents every vestige of human misery that it is possible to imagine. He was so thin that the light seemed to shine right through his frail body that was shrouded in rags. His left leg was hideously twisted and deformed and he held himself upright on a pair of crude crutches that seemed to be welded to his emaciated frame. Huge piercing eyes peered bulbously from his wasted face and it was into these eyes that Wenger now unwaveringly stared, as he addressed the child thus,
“Yes, what is it Tiny Abou Diaby?”
“B-b-begging your pardon Sir”, the waif stammered, “but I seem to have picked up a bit of an ankle knock and I may be out for up to three weeks!”
“Oh for fucks sake”, replied Wenger, “I have told you before Tiny Abou Diaby I am not running a charity here. I expect you to come in tomorrow to clean the others boots, do not disappoint by saying you are otherwise engaged!”
“B-b-but ‘tis Christmas Sir!”
“Humbug!”Wenger roared, “Humbug, humbug, out out out!”
The rest of the day passed, uneventful, until at 9 O clock, Wenger was woken from a daydream by the sound of Walcott clearing his throat as he stood, supplicant in front of his desk.
“Well” Wenger said “Did you sign da ting?”
“No Sir!” Walcott replied, “But I pray you hear me out, I have been your clerk for several years now, and I feel I have executed my duties to the best of my abilities, I do not ask for much sir, except an extra sixpence a year and the opportunity to play up front on my own, I cannot see Sir why you would deny me this.”
“Walcott,” replied Wenger,”I have no doubt but that you are one of the best clerks I have ever had. Your bookkeeping skills are excellent, you have very good penmanship and you will always get us a goal when we have the game won anyway. But sixpence, take thruppence and sign da ting!”
“I respectfully decline Sir,” replied Walcott testily, “I have had an offer from a firm in Liverpool, and while they may be a much smaller company with a very small accounts department and only in the Europa league, I feel they offer me what I want and for the sake of thruppence I shall take their offer and wish you a Happy Christmas and Goodbye!”
“Humbug!” said Wenger.
And so Ebeneezer Wenger locked up the Emirates and walked home through the freezing London night back to his empty house. After a miserly supper of a tepid thin gruel he sat with a cup of warm punch in his tattered dressing gown and nodded off into a fitful doze. Then, as the mantle clock struck midnight, he was roughly shaken from his slumber and on opening his eyes was confronted by the eerie spectacle of Herbert Chapman’s ghost.....
..To be continued.